Companies That Prioritise Mental Well-being At Work
11th Nov 2022
ScreenCloud’s approach to mental well-being at work
We aim to prevent stress and burnout as much as possible and, as a business, we adopt an ‘outcomes over effort’ mindset.
We also recognise that at times, stress happens. There is an important distinction between being temporarily stressed, and suffering from chronic stress... one is arguably when people are in their most heightened and optimised state, and the other can too often become an established cause of mental health. At ScreenCloud we think it’s important to embrace that distinction.And ‘embrace’ is deliberately used! When it comes to the sort of repeated stress that can really wear people down, it’s more than recognising that people have ‘bad days’, we want to be able to actively support our ScreenClouders in those moments. This is reflected not only in our policies and practices but - in addition to our ‘outcomes over effort’, trust-based culture - we work hard to normalise discussing mental well-being at work.
Stress-reducing structures and systems
One of the main things that we do to mitigate stress is ensuring transparency in our goal setting (including setting deliberately cross-functional goals as part of our OKR setting process and sharing company-wide OKR updates at the end of each month.) Across the business, we work in alignment with three ‘clouds’ (we are ScreenCloud, after all!) Our clouds are our annual company goals; this means that at all times every department is, in addition to their own departmental roadmap, working on at least one shared objective every quarter. This enables cross-functional achievement against ambitious missions within People, Product, and Commercial (our three ‘clouds’) regardless of which of those functional areas someone’s role sits most obviously in. We are intent on setting expectations around goals, targets and ambition from the get-go, as we find that stress, burnout, and emotional fatigue can build when employees are left feeling uncertain and feel that they are not able to use their core skills for the majority of their role or are, transversely, too tightly ring-fenced and left unaware of how they can have more cross-functional impact and do all they can to achieve company-level ambition. In any environment this is important but in a scaling, startup environment, getting this balance of role clarity plus potential for impact, right, is critical.
We also apply this mindset when designing roles; we create clear remit and responsibilities from the start, while also recognising that empire-building and gatekeeping is a threat to agility, to ensure ScreenClouders are working with a strong sense of purpose, and also have an opportunity to spot problems and solve them. We have implemented an appropriate degree of levelling within the business so that roles and remits include broadening skill sets, increased responsibility and visualised evidence of career advancement.
It’s important to mention our core values, too; they are ‘Trust & Transparency, Unconventional & Brave, and Integrity’. By starting with our values at all times, rather than enforcing a set way of thinking or removing diverse perspectives (something that core values are occasionally blamed for doing) we work hard to signpost the sorts of approaches and behaviours that we know we don’t tolerate. This means we can manage expectations and then leave lots of lovely space for people to bring their ideas and initiative to work, leveraging the trust and autonomy we give them to avoid those ‘things we don’t tolerate’.
We nurture an environment that is inclusive and welcoming, and a big part of how we achieve this stems from providing an authentic representation of the environment people can expect when they join. Setting a realistic preview for new joiners about our culture and our flexibility in particular (and managing the expectation of our existing ScreenClouders as we continue on our growth journey, too) is important to us. For example, flexibility isn’t perfect for everyone! If you're in our London hub for example, without the ability to manage boundaries individually, it would be totally feasible for someone to work in collaboration with the Bangkok hub’s hours, complete a working day in your own timezone, then stroll right into the Los Angeles timezone as they all wake up. We aren’t going to police this centrally (we’re People, not HR!) So instead we need to ensure we’re bringing people into the business who are able to set boundaries and who understand the nature of an international setup - one that brings far more benefits to the business than it does cause time zone woes! If you send a slack message to a timezone that is unfriendly to the receiver but aligned with your own, that’s fine. But if you expect an immediate response, that’s not fine!!
One of the main things that we welcome is feedback and we always listen. In addition to our annual engagement survey, we send regular ‘Pulse Surveys’ to our ScreenClouders every two weeks to gather information on a range of topics, including manager relations, employee wellbeing, and company confidence. We are able to gather insight regarding the well-being of the team and how they are feeling in their roles, helping us to spot patterns and trends and, as a result, identify areas for opportunity to improve. This openness has allowed us to create an environment where we are able to relieve stress and anxiety that may lead to burnout by anticipating what support our employees may need to achieve their vision of success. We’re looking forward to implementing a more data and insight-driven approach to enabling our senior management and leadership levels (because it’s no good only the leadership team having this insight without those who are at the coal face of role modelling and protecting our culture being left unaware)!We are also trusting as a business; we give our employees lots of autonomy and treat them like grownups. This trust works both ways, and we trust our employees with the opportunity to grow and develop through Career Conversations and through both self-serve learning (the sort of personal development fund that requires no approval) and a centralised budget that can be used for things like accreditations, training courses & qualifications. We require our ScreenClouders to lean into those career conversations and participate actively in them. Career conversations enable our ScreenClouders to reflect and discuss openly with their managers, which can reduce stress or concern that may be lingering. It also enables the business - in the same principle of expectation management - to help all ScreenClouders know where they stand at any given time when it comes to promotional paths. Feedback is difficult, but it’s crucial. We encourage as much communication as possible, including peer-to-peer feedback as part of the career conversation approach we adopt. Sitting on feelings of unease is one of the main causes of stress (the chronic kind, that turns into burnout.)
Stress-reducing policies and practices
In situations where burnout does occur, we always encourage our ScreenClouders to talk to their managers or a member of the People Team to see how we can provide them with support or arrange additional measures. Below are some examples of the centralised policies and practices we have implemented to support the team.
Over the past year, we have introduced Mental Health First Aid training for anyone at management or leadership level. As well as undertaking the training, we also provide mental health resources for them to refer to in the case that a member of their team needs support. We provide an array of employee well-being resources internally that range from mental health support hotlines, to stress management tips, and ways to maintain a work/life balance.
We mentioned that we normalise discussions around mental health. We have very recently completed a series of ‘ScreenClouder stories’ that we shared internally. We were overwhelmed by the honesty and bravery of the members of the team who took part, sharing everything from diagnoses of conditions that ScreenClouders have been living with (not ‘coping’ with!) for many years, to the tactics individuals people employ day to day, to help them reframe, reflect and that they find personally restorative.
Our benefits are provided across a significant variety of statutory provisions (California State Law for example, is very different to UK employment law, which differs again from the provisions the Thai government makes available.) We, therefore, use an approach of benefit ‘parity’ whereby the most enhanced benefit provided, is ‘matched’ across all our hubs. This ensures that, for example, in the UK where Parental Bereavement is a required statutory provision, we make this available to all our US and Thailand-based teams, too. We always strive to go above and beyond the statutory provision too, to the best of our ability as a scaling organisation. We are proud to have enhanced parental leave policies that again, are matched in all our hub locations. Having a clearly signposted philosophy and approach to pay, reward and benefits directly influence feelings of psychological safety, and regardless of the specifics of how we benchmark our salaries or design our reward schemes or benefits packages as we continue to grow, ensuring that our team understands with transparency how we arrive at those packages, is the most important thing.
One of the ways that we help our employees to ensure that they are obtaining a healthy work/life balance and are taking sufficient time off to rest and mentally recuperate is through our ‘Unlimited Annual Leave’ benefit. This allows our employees to take time off without worrying about their holiday allowance running out. Being outcomes-focused means that we don’t track working hours, either. We give our employees the autonomy to manage their diaries.
Unlimited annual leave ensures that our ScreenClouders can take the amount of time off that is right for them to ensure they’re well-rested so that they don't feel overworked or burnt out. As a policy, it sometimes gets a bad reputation (in summary, because individuals often take less holiday in reality than they would with an allowance to track their annual leave against.) We see that as a failure in implementation, not a bad policy, and we avoid this by normalising time off (from the top down; our CEO doesn’t sacrifice his own time off for the sake of the business, and we don’t expect others too, either!) and by encouraging our leaders and managers to track time off in their times and enforce a minimum. Equally, this means that in scenarios like compassionate leave, we can have ultimate discretion over what warrants that time off... we don’t have what are often - ironically - uncompassionate approaches, like for example, stating that only the death of a direct relative ‘qualifies’ an individual for receiving compassionate time off from their employer. Flexibility for us is also about the flexibility to give people a much more individualised experience of work.Ultimately, our aim is to enable, support, signpost and then get out of people’s way! Trust is the golden thread. And that applies to mental health and well-being too, after all, nobody can be the judge of your mental health but you.